Gov. David Ige on Wednesday recognized the challenges faced by Hawaii residents during the statewide lockdown aimed at slowing the progression of COVID-19, and discussed ongoing efforts to provide relief to those affected by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“Today is Day One of the statewide stay-at-home order, and I’m fully aware of how this mandate is a challenge and burden for everyone across Hawaii,” he said during a Wednesday news conference streamed on Facebook Live. “I cannot stress enough the importance of staying at home or in your place of residence. This is the only way we’re going to slow down the spread of COVID-19 in Hawaii.
“I know our community understands why this order is necessary; however, it impacts our neighbors who have lost their jobs and businesses that have closed their doors.”
Among the efforts to aid those affected by the pandemic, the Hawaiian Homes Commission approved the deferral of mortgage payments for the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands direct loans for six months beginning in April.
According to a DHHL news release, lessees or borrowers who might need time beyond the six-month deferral can request assistance from the department.
“We can already see there will be a long-term economic impact from the COVID-19 crisis, and the department felt it was important to act swiftly in the interest of beneficiaries during this uncertain time,” said Hawaiian Homes Commission Chairman William Alia in the release. “This action affects over 1,200 direct loans administered through DHHL. Anyone with a loan through a private institution is encouraged to contact their lender immediately should you be experiencing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 outbreak.”
The state Department of Human Services also is “taking aggressive actions to protect the health and safety of the individuals and families we serve by maintaining essential services to help the people of Hawaii during the COVID-19 crisis,” said Human Services Director Pankaj Bhanot during the news conference.
The department is working in collaboration with its partners to ensure uninterrupted services to residents currently receiving services and all future applicants.
That, however, is being done in a modified manner, he said, including limiting face-to-face contact with the public to protect the health and safety of everyone.
Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Hawaii also will extend its deadline to apply for admissions to UH-Hilo, UH-Manoa and UH-West Oahu until Aug. 1.
“For parents and students who are now thinking about staying home for college, you can’t beat the opportunities across the University of Hawaii system,” said UH President David Lassner in a news release, adding that there is something for everyone at UH — from graduating high school seniors, to students on the mainland wanting to return home, to adults looking for improved economic opportunity through a career change.
Also on Wednesday, Ige addressed ongoing rumors regarding Lt. Gov. Josh Green.
“Let me make it clear that my overriding priority is to protect the health and safety of Hawaii’s people,” he said at the start of his news conference. “This is what we all need to focus on. Anything else at this time is an unnecessary distraction.”
Green, he said, remains the state’s health care liaison and is tasked with evaluating the medical community’s readiness to deliver care to those who test positive for COVID-19. That includes assessing Hawaii’s current equipment supplies, coordinating efforts to secure additional equipment as needed and advocating for state and federal funding.
Meanwhile, state health officials on Wednesday reported six new cases of COVID-19 in Hawaii — four on Oahu, one on Maui and one on Kauai.
That brings the statewide total to 95, while the Big Island’s total case count remains at five.
A mandatory 14-day quarantine for residents and visitors arriving at Hawaii’s state airports from the continental United States and international destinations is now in effect.
Two days before the quarantine went into effect, the number of airline passengers to Hawaii plummeted.
The state said the number of passengers who arrived Tuesday — 4,131 — was down 87% compared to the same date last year, when 32,330 passengers arrived.
Email Stephanie Salmons at email@example.com.